The effects of spaceflight on erythropoiesis and blood volume in the rat were studied during the 14-day NASA Spacelab Life Sciences 2 (SLS-2) Shuttle mission. Measurements included red blood cell mass (RBCM), plasma volume (PV), iron utilization and iron utilization in response to an injection of erythropoietin. Red blood cell (RBC) survival, splenic sequestration and erythrocyte morphology were also evaluated. At landing, the RBCM adjusted for body weight was significantly lower in the flight animals than in the ground controls. While the PV was also decreased, the change was not statistically significant. Incorporation of iron into circulating RBCs was normal when measured after five days of spaceflight and the rat responded normally to the single in-flight injection of erythropoietin. No change in RBC morphology could be attributed to spaceflight. A normal survival was found for the RBC population that was represented by Cr-51 labeled RBCS. These results demonstrate that rats, like humans, return from spaceflight with a decreased RBCM and total blood volume.